Former Brazil and Santos forward Pepe has paid tribute to ex-team-mate Pele and “the eternal memory of the greatest footballer” following his death aged 82.
The three-time World Cup winner passed away on Thursday following a battle with colon cancer, leaving behind a football world in mourning.
As the Selecao star’s team-mate for club and country between 1956 and 1969, fellow Santos attacker Pepe played over 700 games with Pele across their careers.
The pair lifted the Jules Rimet trophy alongside each other in both 1958 and 1962 too, and now the 87-year-old has offered his own respects to his late countryman.
“The whole world knew the seriousness of Pele’s illness,” Pepe said. “But mainly we, the closest and most intimate, had more contact with him and his family.
“We hoped that the illness would be reversed, and the ‘King of the Ball’, the greatest of all, would return with his happy smile and his constant good humour.
REI PELÉ pic.twitter.com/epP8zZHRYr
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) December 29, 2022
“But it wasn’t possible. Pele left us, and with him [goes] the eternal memory of the greatest footballer of all time. Rest in peace, King Pele, my great friend. Football is in mourning.”
Across a 21-year career, Pele played the majority of his club football at Santos, for whom he scored 643 goals in 659 matches, before a subsequent spell with the New York Cosmos.
His tally of 77 international goals for Brazil remains a record matched only by current Selecao forward Neymar, while no other man has replicated his achievement of three World Cup titles.